“Third parties are like bees,” the intellectual historian Richard Hofstadter wrote in 1955. “Once they have stung, they die.” It’s an aphorism that aptly describes the anti-slavery and anti-immigrant parties of the mid-nineteenth century, the Populists and Progressives who ushered out the Gilded Age, as well as more recent third-party standard bearers, from George Wallace to Ross Perot. All of these movements and figures influenced American politics dramatically, before fading away and leaving the basic two-party duopoly intact. Of late, though, our potential third parties have been skipping the stinging part and going straight to the dying. This was true of Unity ’08, the much-ballyhooed attempt by former Democratic and Republican politicos to put up an independent alternative to Barack Obama and John McCain. Despite enjoying a wave of free publicity and boasting Sam Waterston of “Law & Order” as their spokesman, the Unityers never even came close to conjuring up a plausible candidate or platform, and their movement fizzled out amid attempts to entice an unwilling Michael Bloomberg into the lists.
Now the same endgame seems to have arrived for Americans Elect, a well-funded attempt to use the power of the Internet to run an Olympia Snowesque or Evan Bayhish centrist against Obama and Mitt Romney. After months of hype, the group made the embarrassing admission on Tuesday that “as of today, no candidate has reached the national support threshold required” to compete for the virtual party’s nomination. This was a cumbersome way of acknowledging that almost no actual Americans were interested in what Americans Elect was offering them.
Full Article: The Third Party Fantasy – NYTimes.com.